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Build Your Own Concrete Bridge

Add value and function to your backyard space with a concrete pond bridge.

By Kathleen Buckner
Photos Courtesy Of The Green Scene

If you want a project that adds value and function to your water garden, consider building a concrete pond bridge. These features perform double duty,adding architectural interest and connecting one point of your backyard water garden to another.

Bridges can be constructed as simple 2" x 4" wood decking to an elaborate 12' long, stamped, arched concrete structure. For weekend warriors who want to save money and enjoy the benefit of a long lasting product, a concrete pond bridge might be the answer.

Stec Bridge and pond
Stec Bridge and pond

Choosing concrete over wood provides many advantages, according to Scott Cohen, Garden Artisan at the Green Scene, a Los Angeles-based landscape design and construction firm. "There are no splinters and relatively no maintenance," he said. "Concrete can handle a lot more weight load and foot traffic. You can build down lights (recessed lights) or step lights upside down in your concrete form, which can't be done in wood."

Time Commitment

While three men might be able to build a concrete bridge in a day, Cohen recommended using a weekend time frame and doing some planning before picking up the tools. "Having the weekend would allow more time to measure and remeasure again," he said. "Because concrete is a time-sensitive project, you need to make sure that all the prep work is done, with forms in place and double-checking your levels. It's even more critical with a concrete bridge to measure twice and pour once."

A skilled residential homeowner can build a concrete bridge, Cohen said, but he recommended that all do-it-yourselfers try a couple of stones first to hone their techniques before taking on a full-size bridge.

Ponder This...
When designing your bridge, take into consideration the lay of the land.

Concrete Bridge Construction 1

Step 1: Pour footings with enforced rebar. Base wood forms support the bridge.

Choose a size and look that compliments your existing pond environment. Proper bridge placement can improve transition and flow throughout your garden.

Scott Cohen says consider how much traffic flow the garden will receive before choosing the bridge width. "Typical residential gardens require a bridge 3 to 4 feet wide for base traffic," he said. "If you have larger parties and need comfortable passing space, then use a minimum width of 5 feet. For a bridge to look proportionate, consider that the wider you make it, the longer it needs to be."

Setting Constraints
A concrete pond bridge takes extra time due to the setting required. Concrete takes 30 minutes to 3 hours to set, depending on the elements, Cohen said.

"Setting depends on the temperature, humidity and sun and shade exposure," he said. "If you're dealing with a hot day,

Concrete Bridge Construction 2
Step 2: Once the steel enforcements are bent and tied in place, the wood 2x4s can support the concrete during the casting process.

then cover your pour with a tarp so that it doesn't accelerate the set off. You don't want to get the concrete too hard. The reverse of that is if it is cold, there are accelerators that you can use to speed up the process. Once set, you can add decorative elements (such as chemical stains or a sponge run across the board with different shades of color)."

Also, consider waiting a week before you walk across your bridge. "Concrete doubles in strength every day for the first seven days," Cohen said. "We recommend seven days pass before you have foot traffic across it."

Building a concrete bridge can be completed in a weekend, but include qualified helpers and have a clear plan in place before starting the clock. Otherwise, this could turn into a multi-weekend project.

Concrete Bridge Construction 3

Step 3: With the structural steel in place, styrofoam forms create recesses and enhance the bridge's realistic wood-plank appearance.

Concrete bridge construction step#4 concrete bridge construction step#5
Step 4: Pour the integral colored concrete evenly in place Concrete doubles in strength every day for the first 7 days

Brandt concrete bridge

This article was published in Ponds Magazine, Winter 2008

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